Tip of the hat to PZ for bringing to our attention the fact that the Catholic Church is moving away from evolution and toward creationism, a mere decade after John Paul II declared 150 years too late that Darwinian evolution was a correct theory. Says the Grauniad,
Philosophers, scientists and other intellectuals close to Pope Benedict will gather at his summer palace outside Rome this week for intensive discussions that could herald a fundamental shift in the Vatican’s view of evolution.
There have been growing signs the Pope is considering aligning his church more closely with the theory of “intelligent design” taught in some US states.
Naturally, this is fairly surprising, since I considered Benedict, John Paul’s protégé, to be no different in his views from his predecessor, only not displaying Wojtyla’s preference for interfaith outreach and gentle rhetoric.
But just as surprising is the Grauniad’s take on it, which is as weaseling and superficially objective as this of any US paper. The Grauniad is traditionally not only unabashedly leftist but also pro-science (see e.g. here for a good evisceration of alternative medicine).
Nowhere in the article is it stated that all biologists accept evolution as a fact and virtually all accept Darwinism or a later modification of it, such as neo-Darwinism or evo-devo, as a sound theory. Not content with a he-said-she-said article, the author quotes a few people in defense of creationism but none in defense of evolution.
A prominent anti-evolutionist and Roman Catholic scientist, Dominique Tassot, told the US National Catholic Reporter that this week’s meeting was “to give a broader extension to the debate. Even if [the Pope] knows where he wants to go, and I believe he does, it will take time. Most Catholic intellectuals today are convinced that evolution is obviously true because most scientists say so.” In 1996, in what was seen as a capitulation to scientific orthodoxy, John Paul II said Darwin’s theories were “more than a hypothesis”.
In fact, Tassot is not a scientist at all; he has a philosophy Ph.D., and one creationist describes him as “President of the Cercle Scientifique et Historique (CESHE), a Catholic organization standing for the inerrancy of Scripture including, of course, creation.” While I have nothing against philosophers, I recognize that they aren’t scientists.
And, of course, “in what was seen as a capitulation to scientific orthodoxy” is a textbook example of using the passive voice for obfuscation. The subject of the sentence is crucial: creationists saw John Paul’s acceptance of evolution as a capitulation, whereas scientists cheered, or at least those who cared about the Pope’s edicts did.
The British press’s greatest strength is its lack of fear of taking sides. This exposes the reader to a variety of views, so long as he is willing to read not only the Grauniad but also the Torygraph. Without that wide spectrum of side-takers, all the British press is is a bunch of low-quality tabloids and one public outlet whose head resigns whenever it criticizes the government too much.